Feature: former Warwickshire policeman pays tribute to father who died of Coronavirus and appeals to people to help effort to tackle the spread

It's fair to say that, like many others already, Simon Rogers and his family have suffered greatly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tuesday, 21st April 2020, 6:02 pm

Simon, a former Warwickshire policeman who retired from the force last year after having served on it for 30 years, has bravely shared the story with The Courier and Kenilworth Weekly News of the tragic personal experience of the pandemic he and those closest to him have had and are having.

His father Harold Rogers, who had lived in Kenilworth for two decades, died of Coronavirus at Warwick Hospital on April 5.

He had turned 90 on April 1.

Simon Rogers with his father Harold and mother Jean.
Simon Rogers with his father Harold and mother Jean.

To make matters worse for his family, Simon's mother and Harold's wife Jean, who is 89, was admitted to the hospital with symptoms of the virus on April 4.

Although they were initially on the same ward together the couple, who had been married for 68 years this month and were due to celebrate their 90th birthdays together, did not get to see each other or to say goodbye in the hours before Harold passed away.

Of his father, who along with Jean leaves four children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, Simon has said: "My father served with the RAF auxiliary unit from 1949 to 1952 and trained as an aircraft mechanic.

"He originally went for flight crew and passed all the elements but felt it wasn’t going to be possible as he was due to be married and therefore meant a lot of time away. But it turns out my mother was a little disappointed that he didn’t become a pilot.

Harold Rogers

"Most of his service was within the midlands area with time spent at Honiley which was a training base during the war and a dispersal area for aircraft after.

"Dad worked on Vampires, Meteors and tinkered with the odd Hurricane.

"He embarked on a career in engineering, which lead to many accolades throughout his career.

"He flew all over the world and visited many countries behind the Iron Curtain and learned to speak five languages.

Harold and Jean Rogers in their younger days.

"He became a fellow of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and lectured in compressed air systems, which was his specialty.

"His systems still work to this day and operate in the oil fields on the North Sea amongst other places.

"He had a strong belief in Catholicism and maintained his contacts with the church through St Francis of Assisi in Kenilworth.

"He was a devoted husband and father and was always able to turn his hand to DIY around the house, making incredibly fast sleds out of old tables, dolls houses or even helping build an electric guitar from scratch.

Harold and Jean Rogers

"In his later years, he cared for his wife as devoted as the day they first met and maintained this commitment until the very end.

"Sadly he succumbed to the Covid-19 virus.

"Despite being strong and fit he was taken a little too early.

"At the same time, his wife was also admitted onto the same ward at Warwick Hospital with the same symptoms but they were kept apart due to the contagious aspects to this virus.

"They were unable to talk as no phones can be passed around the ward.

"He never got to say goodbye to his wife of 67 years or anyone of his family least.

"The hard truth was that he was not able to hold a conversation due to being breathless despite his best efforts and listening to him fade away struggling was extremely challenging."

One piece of solace for the family is that Jean is now at home again having spent nine days at the hospital with little contact with her family due to the risk of contagion.

Simon said: "I had the experience of attending Warwick Hospital to drop off a mobile phone for our mum so we could keep in contact with her.

"I was not able to enter the ward but was held at the entrance.

"I had the strange experience of exchanging my mum's bag for my dad's last possessions held in a sealed plastic bag and I was unable to check the contents for three days.

"Trying to call through to the ward was also a struggle because there are so many people suffering in need of help the staff don’t have time to staff the phone.

"So it rings out until eventually, you get through."

"But from this sadness came a glimmer of hope with Jean fighting through the virus to eventually come back home.

"It was a bittersweet moment for her but a lasting legacy for others.

"She's strong, she's awesome and she's a shining example of how powerful women can be and how people can overcome incredible odds against them."

Simon tried tirelessly and eventually managed to secure a 30-minute slot at Oakley Wood crematorium for just four family members to attend a funeral for Harold this week.

"A 30-minute slot for 90 years of life, such are the times we are living in," said Simon.

"The knock-on effects of death by this virus are formidable on family members.

"Funerals must be completed within two weeks.

"There's a backlog of bodies so it takes days to recover your loved ones and that’s a struggle to get through on the phone to undertakers because they are all so busy with the dead.

"It’s like the doors opening at a shop for the Boxing Day sales at 6am when everyone crushes the entrance yet no one can get through. But swap that analogy as phone calls held in a queue for tens of minutes until you get fed up and try again later only to face the same thing because someone else has died in the time you’ve taken to make the same call again. It’s relentless."

"It’s a set of circumstances that my mum talked about that was similar to their experiences in the Second World War, except they knew when and where the enemy was coming and they knew what to expect.

"The trouble is, so my mum says, is you can’t see this disease and you just never know who or when it will get somebody.

"It’s insidious and it plays on her mind now.

"We are grateful to have mum home and we now look forward to supporting her in this different life ahead of her.

"So, as Captain Tom Moore says, 'tomorrow will be better'."

Simon experienced much trauma and life-changing incidents during his time serving as a Warwickshire policeman but he says his experience of the pandemic is different.

As a message to readers of this article, he said: "Stay at home, stay safe and protect the NHS because they need it more than ever right now.

"I hope readers will maintain their commitment to the Government's directions until one day we finally beat this pandemic.

"But, sadly, there will be many more loved ones that will be lost on this journey."